Former Manchester United midfield star Paul Ince has laid into the Red Devils in the wake of the growing reality that Dutch international Frenkie de Jong is unlikely to swap Catalunya for the northwest of England this summer.
In quotes sourced by The Daily Mail, Ince - who made over 200 appearances for United between 1989-1995 - claimed that the Red Devils would not struggle to secure a player of De Jong’s had Sir Alex Ferguson still been the manager at the Theatre of Dreams.
“Back in the day, Frenkie de Jong would’ve gone to Manchester United without a doubt. If [Sir Alex Ferguson] was the manager of United, he’d already be there. It shows you that the club, as big as it is globally and financially, these players are saying no.”
United, who were left reeling after a frustrating 2-1 home defeat against Graham Potter’s Brighton last weekend, produced a sub-par performance that laid bare a multitude of issues that remain, including a distinct lack of quality in central midfield.
As such, the club is currently pushing for a deal for Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot after club director of football John Murtough flew to Turin to try to speed up negotiations, while also said to be exploring the possibility of making a play at Lazio star Sergej Milinković-Savić.
For Ince, it remains clear that further quality is needed ahead of Scott McTominay and Fred.
“Looking at the midfield on Sunday, they definitely need one or two in there at least. I’ve said last season, that they need at least two holding midfield players with power. I was fortunate enough, when I went to Manchester United as a kid, to play alongside Bryan Robson. He actually made me a better player.”
“I think McTominay needs someone like that, maybe one or two in there, just to give him a bit of support. No, he’s not a young kid now, he’s 25, but you’ve seen performances sometimes where you think “yeah, this kid can play.”
“Fred is a different kettle of fish. Fred, for me, will give it his all, he’ll try his best, and sometimes you think is he the player that’s going to get Manchester United to where they want to get to? But it’s not about individuals, it has to be about the team.”
United can certainly draw criticism for the length of time they spent trying to convince De Jong to pack his bags and leave Camp Nou, but the bigger frustration can be directed at the club for failing to have any ready-made backup plan(s) in place to target alternative options should a deal for De Jong not materialize.
Now, the club is left scrambling in the final weeks of the window to try to add not one, but two central midfielders in order to offer new boss Erik ten Hag enough quality to right the ship in his first season in the Premier League.